Unlike India’s chaotic preparations in 1962, a Chinese war plan made months in advance - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 8 December 2017

Unlike India’s chaotic preparations in 1962, a Chinese war plan made months in advance

The Dalai Lama's escape (pictured here, struggling to the Indian border) led Mao to "teach India a lesson"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Dec 17

On October 20, 1962, when China attacked Indian posts on the Namka Chu rivulet near Tawang, marking the start of the disastrous Sino-Indian war, the troops that conducted that attack – the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) 11 Infantry Division – prepared for that battle in three years of battling Tibetan guerrillas, called the Chushi Gangdruk.

Earlier, on August 25, 1959, the first-ever armed clash between Chinese and Indian soldiers, took place when an Indian patrol ran into a Chinese company (roughly 100 soldiers) stationed in Migyitun “for work with the masses”, as Beijing euphemistically termed operations against the Chushi Gangdruk.

PLA General Yin Fatang reveals that, on June 11, 1962, the Tibet Military Command constituted the “Advance Command Post for China-India Border Self-Defence Counter-attack” code-named Z419 (“Z” stands for “Xizang”, or Tibet). Yin was appointed its political commissar.

Four days earlier, PLA General Tan Guansan, who had brutally put down the Lhasa revolt in March 1959, relayed orders from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and Central Military Commission to prepare to fight the Indian army.

These are some of a range of new details of the 1962 Sino-Indian war gleaned by Chinese scholar, Jianglin Li, from Chinese Communist Party (CCP) documents and interviews with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) veterans. Li’s research is posted on the “War on Tibet” website in a research article entitled  “‘Suppressing Rebellion in Tibet’ and the China-India Border War”.

The war clouds began gathering in May 1962, when Beijing decided to “create conditions for peacefully resolving the border dispute” by “resolutely fighting back” against the advancing Indian army, says Wei Ke, director of Z419’s political department. Then itself, it was decided that the main front would be the eastern sector, specifically the Tawang and Walong areas. 

By October, 10,300 Chinese soldiers were placed under Z419 Command Post, charged with attacking India in Kejielang (Nyamjang Chu valley) and Tawang, according to a PLA “Studies on Battle Examples”.

Yin says: “From mid-June 1962, Z419 Command Post started to collect intelligence in the battle zone and work on a battle plan.” Intensive military training began, including individual training, unit training and battle exercises at regimental level. Based on the experience of fighting the Chushi Gangdruk, Z419 replaced physically unfit officers and soldiers. Well-trained rocket launcher operators were dispatched to Tibet from Wuhan, and artillery personnel were sent from several military commands. Beijing Military Command sent communications equipment and operators. Over one hundred English, Hindi and Tibetan interpreters from different areas were sent to Tibet for the coming “self-defence counter-attack”.

Meanwhile, in contrast with China’s formidable build up, the Indian Army was struggling to send to the border an inadequate formation of 2,400 soldiers – the ill-fated 7 Infantry Brigade – which was short of soldiers, arms, equipment and acclimatisation for high-altitude combat.

Beijing took the final decision to go to war in two meetings. The first was on October 8, between Mao Zedong and China’s top leadership – Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, He Long, Nie Rongzheng and Luo Ruiqing. The next day, Z419 received the pre-order for battle.

The die was cast, According to General Zhang Guohua, who was selected to command the battle; he flew back to Lhasa from Beijing on October 13th. A “Frontline Command Post”, positioned at Tsona, replaced Z419 for the battle.

The second meeting, at which the final go-ahead was given, took place at 1:30 p.m. on October 17. The Central Military Commission and Mao himself approved General Zhang Guohua’s battle plan.

Besides the PLA’s overwhelming advantage in combat soldiers numbers, Li’s research reveals the CCP’s Tibet Work Committee supported the frontline with a major logistic effort. It dispatched 1,280 party cadres to lead civilian workers functioning as logistical support teams. 32,237 Tibetans and 1,057 pack animals were drafted to load, unload and transport supplies, carry wounded soldiers back from battlefront, and clear up battlefields, etc. Over 10,000 civilians were drafted to repair and construct roads.

It is hardly surprising that, on October 20, Indian defences in the Tawang sector crumbled in hours. 


  1. If my memory isn't playing games, Nehru was the leader of India at that crucial time. Now the Great Grandson of this clueless man is vehemently encouraged to take over the reins of leaderless Congress party. Ironically, it's China again starting to show its fangs with much more muscle and ambition. I am sure that Chinese are drooling at the prospects of another Nehru/Gandhi clansman on Indian thrones when the time comes to teach India "another lesson."

  2. Kargil too we were caught unawares. We paid with too many lives to get back so little land.
    Artillery was a problem then, it is a problem now. Assault rifles were a problem then, it is a problem now.
    Hope otherwise are improving and these last mile crucial firepower issues get resolved fast.

    We cannot blame only the forces, the whole political class and bureacracy needs to be in sync with national goals.

  3. We got most of that land back. It was mainly due to Bill Clinton's agreed cease-fire agreement and pull-back of Pak Paramilitaries. Without that we would have lost many more men and who knows if it wouldn't have escalated to a full blown war. The annoying factor is that they still hold the point 5353. That point allows them to overlook the highway and close it when they need to.

    With China, we are known to be shit scared of them. The 56 inch chest bafoon doesn't even squeak when IA confronts them. Haven't understood his timid behavior. At least Nehru could speak. IA is not keen to confront the PLA either. All their future plans are for the western front. Our timid behavior wrt China only encourages the smaller nations. Look at the behavior of Nepal and Maldives.



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